The Four Noble Truths in Siddhartha's Journey to Self-Enlightenment

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Is it possible for Shakespeare to connect Othello to the Four Noble Truths? In Shakespeare’s words, “Poor and content is rich, and rich enough.”1 Shakespeare unintentionally connects the concept of his play Othello to the ancient concept of the Four Noble Truths: craving worldly pleasures only leads one to suffer. The Four Noble Truths provide a conceptual framework to Buddhist principles; they contain the essence of Buddhist teachings. Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha deals with Siddhartha’s spiritual journey of self-discovery during the time of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Every step along Siddhartha’s journey incorporates a concept from each of the Four Noble Truths.

In order to understand the concepts of the Four Noble Truths, one needs to understand the aim of Buddhist practice. “The aim of Buddhist practice is to cure craving, the desire conditioned by ignorance that leads to suffering” (Demoss 1).2 Buddhism advocates meditation, and a “…goal of Buddhist meditation is to produce right mindfulness, an alert awareness of what is happening in body, mind, and world at the present moment” (Demoss 318).3 “Traditionally, ‘right action’ is defined in Buddhist ethics by the five percepts: do not kill, do not steal, do not engage in illicit sex, do not lie, and do not become intoxicated” (Demoss 319).4 “According to Buddhism a person does not have an intrinsic permanent changeless identity. There is no core self. The self is empty” (Demoss 1).5 The Four Noble Truths provide a conceptual framework for all Buddhist thought. According to the Four Noble Truths, craving leads to suffering, but craving can cease if one cultivates a path of mental discipline, wisdom, and moral conduct (Demoss 309).6 An understanding of Buddhism is...

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